GPS, accelerometer pods or something else for running?
April 26, 2007 10:00 AM   Subscribe

I’m training for a marathon and I’m looking for a training tool to keep track of my progress and to keep me motivated. Should I go with GPS, accelerometer pods or something else?

I plan to run 4 day/week in the next 4 months. I’d like to know my pace while running and keep track of my daily/weekly/monthly mileage. I plan to train on both open roads and on trails. Anyone has experience with GPS based devices (Garmin Forerunner) and accelerometer based devices (Polar RS200sd and others)? Am I missing an option? I’m not interested in the nike+ipod thing.
posted by racingjs to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have a Garmin Forerunner 301 that's the bees knees. I haven't used any other GPS other than Forerunners, and my previous one was a 101. Definitely get one with an interface for your computer. Looking back I wish I'd bought the one with the heart rate monitor (305 I think it's called).

I use it with SportTracks, much better software than the default. I'm a very experienced competitive runner, and I find that even I have trouble accurately quantifying distance run based solely on time and effort without the GPS - especially if they are unfamiliar routes. I find the information useful, and it's also reassuring feedback to see improvements in pace/mile vs. perceived effort in given workouts. Not everyone agrees with this level of quantification, but I think it's valuable information. Especially good if you're a geek and like it as a toy. It's a great toy as well as a great tool.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:28 AM on April 26, 2007

Try the Suunto T4. With its foot pod or gps pod, it will track your daily/weekly/monthly stats internally or download them to a PC (with the PC pod). The "Marathon Pack" (google it) contains everything you need. As a bonus, the coaching software on the watch is pretty impressive and has been doing wonders to push my efforts.
posted by MarcieAlana at 10:30 AM on April 26, 2007

I am a beginner training for a marathon. I'm planning on getting the Garmin Forerunner 305 for more detailed statistical info, but for just general tracking i've been using a running log on:

Cool Running

I find it easy to use and a great way to get simple statics on distance, and pace. Plus you have a "read only" link available for your personal log if you wish to share it.
posted by smart_ask at 10:33 AM on April 26, 2007

Some relevant thoughts in this thread. In sum, I'm a Forerunner 305 user and really can't complain, modulo the wimpy software I mentioned in my post in that thread.
posted by epugachev at 10:48 AM on April 26, 2007

There are a number of posting on the nike ipod setup. I've owned one now for a year.

I"m not a marathoner, but did try and use if to train for some 8-10k's. The ipod+nike is OK as long as you calibrate it, plus run at the same pace.

If you intend on doing any speed training, where your pace, and therefore your gate change, you'll experience up to 10-15% error.

This pretty much sucks when you've just ended a fast 10k, look down at the ipod and see it only says you ran about 9k. It therefore screws up your average pace, and every other reading.

I've calibrated the thing numerous times, but still get an unacceptable error rate when I run slower or faster.

Also, you need to calibrate in mid-run. In other words if you just go out an calibrate it without any warm up, your stride will not be accurate.

If I was doing a marathon, I'd look at some other tool to train with.
posted by rryan at 10:50 AM on April 26, 2007

I use a garmin edge 305, which is the cycling equivalent of the forerunner 305. is a godsend for my training needs.
posted by neilkod at 10:54 AM on April 26, 2007

I also have an Edge 305 and while I don't run on purpose, for biking it's hands-down indispensable if you have the cash. motionbased is very cool.
posted by kcm at 11:09 AM on April 26, 2007

I've run three marathons and have never really joined the whole Garmin School of Training(tm). To me the simplicity of running is its virtue and trying to add gadgets to it detracts from my enjoyment. I take a pen and paper approach instead. My favorite and most effective training tool is The Ultimate Runner's Journal.

It's great to be able to look back and see my progress in terms of mileage and pace, and also helps a lot in pinpointing when injuries started.
posted by hollisimo at 11:37 AM on April 26, 2007

P.S. I keep track of my splits using a $30 Timex Ironman watch, which works great. I run the same routes so I've used Google Earth to figure out where mile points are. Decidedly low-tech in execution, but works very well.
posted by hollisimo at 11:38 AM on April 26, 2007

Not really a time/distance tool, but as a bicyclist I found that a heart rate monitor is a great training tool. I found myself getting much better quality workouts with it and I could clearly see my resting heart rate and my average heart rates getting better as I trained.

Also, I did a lot of 10k races when the cycling season ended, and I found that the HRM helped me run some of my best races ever. That's because it helped me run a more even pace (I always used to start out too fast) and keep below my lactic acid threshold until my final sprint.

One more thing, my HRM transmitter works with the treadmills and other cardio equipment at the gym. That means I don't have to touch anything for the equipment to read my heart rate. (BTW, I have a analog transmitter and I don't know if the digital ones will also work at the gym).

The Polar brand HRMs are probably the market leader but they're expensive for what you get. Mine is made by Sports Instruments. I bought it from Bike Nashbar for about $40 or $50 and it has worked great for more than two years.
posted by 14580 at 12:43 PM on April 26, 2007

USA Track & Field has a great online route-mapper; I wrote about it just before I ran the LA Marathon this year. I don't have any monitoring device that I use, just a good ol' digital watch ...
posted by GatorDavid at 1:54 PM on April 26, 2007

Seconding (or thirding?) the Garmin Forefunner series. Use it with Motionbased and you are golden.
posted by rlef98 at 7:10 PM on April 26, 2007

I second the problems with the nike+. I know your not interested, but wanted to put it out there in case anyone is thinking of buying it. If you run the same pace it's a nice tool. However, the moment you start varying your pace it's just garbage. Mine was off by almost 5 or 6 kilometers by the end of my marathon.

How do the Garmin devices work in urban areas? I live a little north of Tokyo where there aren't too many big buildings but 15 story apartment buildings are not rare. I've heard the signal could drop out a lot but really like the idea of a GPS on my wrist.

Also, if anybody knows of a Forerunner type device I could use for both running and cycling you'd be my hero.
posted by m3thod4 at 10:13 PM on April 26, 2007

Response by poster: MarcieAlana : The Suunto T4 looks nice. Do you use the foot pod or the GPS pod?
posted by racingjs at 9:42 AM on April 27, 2007

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